HIERARCHICAL CONJUNCTIONS

Hierarchical conjunctions can provide valuable information about the relationships among elements.


DEFINITION: Hierarchies organize information according to importance or inclusiveness.


For example, the Linnaean taxonomy (left) is a hierarchical organization based on inclusiveness: more inclusive taxa (Kingdom, phylum, etc.) are at a higher level of the hierarchy than less inclusive taxa (Genus, Species).


Connecting elements of information hierarchically provides more specific information than simply using an "and" conjunction.


For example, we could write "The order Coleoptera (Beetles) is the largest order in the entire animal kingdom. Within the order Coleoptera are over 350,000 species of beetles." The word "within" serves as a conjunction that indicates that the category species is a subset of the larger category Coleoptera.


Hierarchical conjunctions can be important ways of connecting elements of arguments within a specific context. Because identifying hierarchical connections provides context, hierarchical transitions are more powerful than "and" conjunctions.


There are many ways to indicate hierarchies. However, two main categories are subsets (less inclusive groups within a larger group) and supersets (more inclusive groups that contain a smaller group).

EXAMPLES OF HIERARCHICAL CONJUNCTIONS

SUBSETS

Specifically

Within

A member of X is...

Elements of X are....

X Contains...

X can be divided into...


SUPERSETS

More generally

X is part of the larger category of...

X belongs to...

X is one element of...

X is contained within...

A more inclusive category is...

Establishing and identifying hierarchies among concepts can be an extremely powerful way to organize thinking and writing. Using hierarchical conjunctions among elements of an argument can help establish context and make writing stronger and more explanatory.